Organizers for the 49th annual Mayor’s Christmas Parade in Hampden say the event will go on as scheduled, even though the city has not disclosed its plan for finding a sufficient number of police officers to work the event.
Tom and Sharen Kerr declined to move the parade during a call with city officials Monday. The parade, which organizers say is the largest holiday parade in Maryland, is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Dec. 4 — the same time the Ravens host the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium — and city officials expressed concerns about having enough officers to handle both events.
“This is where the city has completely dropped the ball,” said Tom Kerr, who has organized the parade since its inception.
The city knew about the date of the parade, he said, because he filed for a permit in July. The parade has traditionally been held on the first Sunday in December.
Monica Lewis, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, told The Baltimore Banner on Friday afternoon the city is working with organizers to find more officers, but could not provide a timetable or say when more information will be shared to the public. The Baltimore Police Department deferred comment to the mayor’s office.
The Baltimore Sun reported earlier in the week that organizers would know by Friday whether the city could provide the necessary police presence to hold the event. Sharen Kerr, in an email to The Baltimore Banner on Friday, said she had “been assured by a representative of Baltimore City that the parade will go on as scheduled.”
Odette Ramos, the City Council member for the district, said the city is trying to figure out how to get more security officers to be at the parade. There are still some logistics that the city will have to figure out, Ramos said, but the mayor’s office has made a commitment.
“So we’re proceeding as scheduled,” she said.
While Ramos said the police department is “overwhelmed,” she stressed the need to utilize other resources to alleviate the strain.
”Let’s just make sure ahead of time that we’ve got the resources, and that could be, you know, state troopers, that could be going to the county to bring folks in,” she said. “I think that’s what the mayor’s office is exploring now, which I think is a good thing.”
Michael Ricci, a spokesperson for Gov. Larry Hogan, said on Twitter that the “state stands ready to assist.”
Tom Kerr and Ramos hope to hear more about the city’s plans in the coming days; in the meantime, Kerr is considering hiring private security.
Tom Kerr said moving the parade was not an option because organizers already paid for the floats, balloons and bands set to perform. Many of the performers were booked for other weekends in December, he said.
The parade began during the William Schaefer mayoral administration in 1973. But the city doesn’t have any association with the parade, Tom Kerr said — Hampden businesses largely fund the event.
Benn Ray, president of Hampden Village Merchants Association, said this is not the first time the city has said it lacks officers to handle a permitted event. He ultimately opted to hire private security to help with Hampdenfest this year, he said.
“We have to apply well in advance for permits and then at the last minute the city says something along the lines of they don’t have enough police to support it,” he said.
“For the city at the last minute to then come in and deny, it is unacceptable.So they need to figure out the solution.”
The parade was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, but returned last year.